An exercise to pick the top five performances of Telugu actor Ram Charan from the 10 films that he has acted in the span of 11 years will make you realize that his films are mostly indistinguishable from each other. He was thrust into the spotlight in the most glamorous and elaborate fashion. Hailing from one of the most powerful families in the Indian film industry, he did not have to struggle too hard to earn his popular screen alias from the fans, Mega Power Star. A name that is derived from the honorary titles of his Megastar father Chiranjeevi and his uncle Power Star Pawan Kalyan.

Being a star kid, Ram Charan already enjoyed a huge market for his films. Given that he was born a superstar, just him coming to the big screens filled up theatres.

Charan made his screen debut with Chirutha in 2007 and it was a huge hit at the box office. It was celebrated for getting the biggest ever opening for a film with a first-time actor in the lead. And then came Magadheera, which was helmed by director SS Rajamouli.

When Rajamouli joined hands with Charan for a big film that is partially set in a fictional kingdom of Udayghar, the box office was set on fire. It only cemented Charan’s position as the king-in-the-waiting at the Tollywood box office. His third film Orange (2010) was a box office failure. Two years later, he acted in a commercial potboiler Racha that became one of the top-grossing films of that year. He knew that the tried and tested mass-masala films provided him a safety net for his stardom.

After delivering another box office hit in Telugu in 2013, Naayak, Charan forayed into Bollywood with Zanjeer, a remake of Bollywood Shahenshah Amitabh Bachchan’s celebrated revenge drama of the same name that came out in 1973. It was simply panned by critics and the fans alike.

But, Charan kept the cash registers ringing at the box office with his mass hero act. He had a formula and he imitated it for repeated box office success. Perform some ridiculously difficult dance moves with ease, be flexible doing stunts, look stylish, always play a cocksure character and get good at delivering massy monologues about one’s own unmatchable physical strength. He just had to stick to the script and play to the gallery.

Charan, however, of late has been taking active measures to redefine his career and his onscreen image. He is now putting in efforts and picking scripts that will not just bring in big collection numbers at the box office but also give characters that will remain in the memories of moviegoers.

“Mani Ratnam told me once when we met. We were planning to work in a film but that couldn’t happen. Then he told me just one thing: ‘You are a big star and you don’t have to worry about the market too, then why do you think from the perspective of sales. My film with you will be a different film in your career. Though it won’t give you much collection it would surely give you a name. So think about the subjects you choose in the future projects.’ This was the seed he planted in my mind and maybe the seed is the reason why Dhruva came today,” Charan had recalled while discussing the shift in his approach and expectations from his line of business.

Charan’s previous film Dhruva was a remake of Tamil hit Thani Oruvan. It had Charan playing a cop character, who was vulnerable and get outfoxed at every turn by a smart, powerful and stylish antagonist played by Arvind Swamy.

In his next film Rangasthalam, he has further pushed the envelope by appearing in a deglamorized look of a villager. What’s more, he plays a protagonist with a hearing impairment.

Charan has come a long way since the days he was not ready to lose his stubble and sport a clean-shaven look to play a cop character in Zanjeer. His priorities have changed markedly.

Charan now seems to prefer feeding the actor-wolf in him over the star-wolf. But, he still gets to keep the Mega Power Star title. That’s non-negotiable.